Torii Hunter hit two of them Friday night, but home runs are harder to come… (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images )
DENVER — Coors Field is still considered a hitter's park, but it's nowhere near the launching pad it was when Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto pitched for the Rockies from 1997-2000, when it was known as Coors Canaveral.
"I told my wife after I retired that I did OK for myself here," said Dipoto, who went 9-6 with a 3.95 earned-run average and 13 homers given up in 128 career games in Coors Field. "But 20 or 30 years from now, when we're sitting on the porch with our grandkids, they're going to say, 'Grandpa stunk.' Well, it was much harder than it looked."
The air is every bit as thin and dry today in high-altitude Denver, but the balls are not. Before the 2002 season, the club installed a room-sized humidor in which baseballs are stored at 50% relative humidity and 70 degrees. There was 17% humidity at game time Friday night.
As a result, the number of home runs has decreased dramatically, from an average of 3.20 a game from 1995-2001 to 2.39 a game from 2002-2011.
Coors Field twice broke the major league record for homers, with a high of 303 in 1999, but that figure has dropped to about 200 a year, and scoring is down by about three runs a game.
The last time the Angels played an interleague game here before Friday, on July 8, 2001, they hit five homers, two each by Scott Spiezio and Darin Erstad and one by Garret Anderson.
"It's huge," Dipoto said of the difference. "It gives the pitcher a chance. It's not because of how the ball carries but how it feels. It feels like a baseball instead of a cue ball. You can make a ball sink, run, which is significantly different than before."
Dipoto said the Angels will not be among the teams pursuing Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, the highly touted 20-year-old who has been compared with Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
"We have other areas to address," Dipoto said. "I don't even know who his agent is; that tells you how involved we are."
Reliever LaTroy Hawkins, out for the last five weeks because of a broken right pinkie finger, will be activated Saturday after pitching three innings on a minor league rehabilitation assignment.